Ruud Doevendans

Ruud Doevendans has been an official columnist for a Dutch club and owns one of the largest collections of soccer videos containing hundreds of World Cup matches. We at PWC are proud to have him as a columnist. He will share his views about the past, present and future of the World Cup.

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How I betrayed my parents because of Daniel Passarella

    It was June 14th, 1978 and I just had this surgery on both feet. And it may sound strange, but I was happy about it because I couldn't climb the stairs to my sleeping-room, but had to stay on a bed in the livingroom and that provided me with the chance to see Argentina, who played their World Cup games just after midnight. My parents however didn't like the idea at all: they asked me what had come to my mind, to think that I could stay up that late, I was "only" 13! So I had no choice, I had to do it in secret. And since we didn't have a remote-control yet, it became a matter of struggling my way to the tv - I couldn't walk yet after the operation - turning it on, keeping the door closed to keep the tv-lights from reaching the second floor where my parents were sleeping, and turning off the noise. Not easy, but I knew I could do it. I had to!

    In the first round I had seen one Argentina-match, the first one against Hungary. And I was very impressed by them, and probably by the great atmosphere. I liked the quick goalie Fillol, the brilliant midfielder Ardiles who seemed to be everywhere on the field, and most of all the fantastic captain Daniel Passarella. What a player he was, capable of building up attacks and defending without any compromise. And that being so dangerous in front of the opponent's goal. Just what I liked. And yes it's true: he was an extremely hard-tackling player, gesticulating to referees and intimidating other players. But that was not my problem, this man was absolutely unbelievable. I wanted to see all his games.

    Then came, less than 24 hours after the surgery, the big moment. Thursday night, 00.15am, Argentina playing Poland in Rosario. My parents had gone to bed, I was all alone in the living-room, everything was dark. I had to turn on the television, but it appeared to be difficult, really difficult. It was painful as well, but for obvious reasons I couldn't produce any noise. I had to go on all fours and needed time. First I closed the door. That alone took a couple of minutes. Then I crawled to the tv, with a table standing in my way. Again some minutes gone. Things went real slow and I realized that I should have started ten minutes earlier, for now it seemed that I would miss the first minutes of the game. That's exactly what happened.

    But nevertheless, I succeeded in my mission and I saw the Argentines and Poles battling each other on a tickertaped field. I was excited. What was that??? Did I hear footsteps on the stairs??? It turned out to be the dog, for a moment I thought that my plan had ended in tatters. When I reached the bed again, Mario Kempes had already headed the ball behind Jan Tomaszewski to make it 1-0 to Argentina. The big danger during this one-and-a-half-hour adventure was of course, that one of my parents would notice something. In that case, the punishment would have been severe, but it was a risk I could accept. For Argentina and Daniel Passarella, I was prepared to do anything! I enjoyed it so much, watching the great Polish team and the sometimes hysterical Argentines, with their leader Passarella as the man at the wheel. He played like a human circular saw. And Argentina won. Fillol, unbelievably, saved a Deyna-spotkick and halfway through the second period Kempes scored again: 2-0. Poland on their knees. And my parents? The never knew anything about my midnight-escapade. At least, not until they read this story!

    We all remember what happened. Argentina drew 0-0 with Brazil in a frantic encounter, and had to win by a margin of four goals against Peru. And whether it was a bribed match or not, I don't think any team could have withstood this Argentina-team. For Argentina had Passarella, the man who took his teammates to a higher level. A few days later, Argentina became the new world champions by beating Holland 3-1 in extra-time. And how they all hated Daniel Passarella, the Dutch football-fans on their screens. How unbearable he was, complaining about the bandage of René van de Kerkhof. Everyone was hoping Johan Neeskens would kick him right into the Emergency Room of the Buenos Aires Hospital. Everyone, except me. I was impressed, by his hunger for victory, his eagerness to win, his qualities as a player and as a leader. He was, and still is today, one of my favourites.

    Any team that had Passarella in their ranks benefitted from him, very much. Argentina did, River Plate, Fiorentina and Internazionale. He was a magnificent player, although he sometimes broke through the barriers of decency. But his great contributions to football don't get lost because of that, on the contrary: they just get more emphasized. He was born with the captain's armband around his arm, no doubt about it. He scored lots of goals, mainly with his head although he was rather small. He never failed from the penalty-spot, and he could score from a free-kick as well. As Dino Zoff discovered during the World Cup 1982. The Italian goalkeeper was still forming a wall, when Passarella launched a mighty shot. Goal! Argentina itself was past it's best that tournament, but their captain had become even better than he was four years before. And the Italians learned that somewhere on earth a better defender had been born than they had ever had themselves. His name? Daniel Alberto Passarella, from Chacabuco, Argentina.



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